While the Washington Nationals are a sound baseball team overall, there are still areas where they could improve. Depending on how the offseason plays out, second base could become an area where they would need to make a serious investment.
Obviously, the no. 1 spot that they need to fill at this point is in the dugout with the vacant managerial position. If you need some insight on that search, check out this piece by James Williams and as well as this article. To put it simply, Randy Knorr is the top candidate currently wearing a Nationals uniform and other than that, we really have no idea who his competition.
There is speculation over Matt Williams and Cal Ripken Jr., but the Nationals have been very quiet as far as their out-of-house candidates goes.
This offseason could be an interesting one for the Nationals infield. We could see as many as three positions change hands before spring training begins in February. Let’s start with first base and Adam LaRoche. Some have speculated that LaRoche could be on his way out the door either via trade or release. That would leave an obvious hole at first base. Who would fill it?
Well, one possible replacement is Ryan Zimmerman. Let’s face it, Zimmerman isn’t the hot corner commander that he used to be. He committed 21 errors, his most since his 2007 season, and his 94 percent fielding percentage is the lowest of his career.
Maybe the hot corner is just too hot for the former first-round draft pick? Zimmerman’s bat is still just as valuable, so he’s an asset to the team. However, his defensive value may now lie at first base. So, who would play third?
When the Nationals drafted Anthony Rendon sixth overall back in 2011, the plan all along was for him to take over at third base when Zimmerman had moved on. Next year, Zimmerman could be moving to first and that would leave the hot corner open to the heir apparent in Rendon. Thus, we now have a hole at second base.
The gut reaction is to simply insert one of the league’s best utility men in Steve Lombardozzi. However, Lombardozzi isn’t consistent enough with his glove or his bat to play the position. The Nationals would need to look to the free agent market to see who’s available.
When you look at that list, the obvious one is Robinson Cano. Cano is a powerful 31-year-old slugger with some years left in the league. He’s pricey, but he brings a lot to the table. After that, Omar Infante, Nick Punto, Brian Roberts and Skip Shumaker all make viable options to fill in. Some will be better than others, but all five players are solid options which the Nationals can afford.
Even if LaRoche stays put, the Nationals should look at upgrading at second base. Unless LaRoche has an incredible 2014 season, and that’s if the Nationals take a chance on him, the shifts will all begin prior to the 2015 season. Second base is a position that needs upgrading and the Nationals could make quite an improvement this offseason with the players that are going to be available.